RISE Award Nominee: How a Texas cop saved partner and self with tourniquets and SWAT training
Senior Officer Gonzalez treated his beat partner and himself after a volatile confrontation left them both wounded
A big ‘congratulations’ is due to Corpus Christi Senior Officer Amador Gonzalez, who has earned his place as a ‘Protect Life’ nominee for TASER and PoliceOne’s first-ever RISE Awards. Gonzalez illustrated his passion to protect when he not only removed a dangerous criminal from his community, but saved the lives of his partner and himself. Nominations closed Sept. 15. We'll be announcing the winners shortly!
As a SWAT officer, Amador Gonzalez had been told countless times during training to envision the following scenario: “You’ve been shot in the right leg, you have 30 seconds to save yourself.” Without warning, he would stop what he was doing, retrieve his tourniquet, and get to work.
After 15 years on SWAT, applying a tourniquet had become second nature, and it would be a skill for which his department and his partner would be forever grateful.
Answering the Call
On March 20, 2014, Gonzalez listened to the details of a suspicious person in a neighborhood in Corpus Christi, Texas as they came over the airwaves of his radio. Young white male, plaid shorts, baggy white T-shirt. He was suspected of attempting to break into homes in the suburban neighborhood. Two officers responded and found no signs of the suspect.
Gonzalez’s beat partner Scott Goodman had just started his shift when he heard the call come through. He’d found who they were looking for about a mile further, and after confirming the description, planned to make contact. Gonzalez, who was close by, would back him up.
"Goodman had contacted the subject in the front yard [of a home] and as soon as I turned the corner I had a visual of them in the front yard. The subject had that deer-in-the-headlights look, so I’m thinking ‘This guy’s about to bail’," Gonzalez recalled.
Gonzalez pulled into the driveway behind Goodman’s squad — a Chevy Tahoe — and parked. As he exited, he heard Goodman ask the man if he had weapons, and approached to pat him down.
The moment Goodman’s hand reached the subject’s shoulder, the man retrieved a semi-automatic pistol from his waistband. Gonzalez yelled, ‘Gun!’ as Goodman dropped back, falling to the ground and inadvertently pulling the armed suspect down on top of him.
|Senior Officer Amador Gonzalez. (Photo courtesy Amador Gonzalez)|
The gunman fired two rounds at point blank range — the first entering at Goodman’s neck and traveling along his spine, exiting out the small of his back. The second round entered his left leg.
"Both of our units are in front of the house, so I had no cover, no time to get cover, so I just rushed him,” said Gonzalez, who had unholstered his duty weapon and charged at the subject. "I was just running and laying down some fire.
“He fired a shot from the hip, not really aiming at me, and it hit me in the upper left thigh, exited my left buttock."
Gonzalez and the subject were on their feet and circling each other. The subject took advantage of a tree in the yard and used it to hop back and forth as Gonzalez fired off six or seven rounds, unsure if he’d struck the suspect. Unsure if his partner was still alive.
Gonzalez backed away toward his squad, still exchanging gunfire. A loud moaning sound from the suspect still maneuvering around the tree indicated to Gonzalez that he must have hit him.
"He started turning away from me like he was about to take off, so I tell myself I’m going to get my rifle from my unit and go after him."
What the subject did next was what Gonzalez least expected. He changed direction and ran toward Goodman’s Tahoe.
"He opens the door to the Tahoe and I strike him a couple more times. I reload my pistol and he’s in the driver’s seat, about to take off. I empty another eight or nine rounds; I just lay down fire as he starts to drive away. It was a real sick feeling, 'cause I know he’s wounded and he’s still able to drive away," said Gonzalez, still frustrated to this day.
Nice and High, Nice and Tight
The 19-year veteran got on the radio to tell dispatch he and Goodman were both hit.
"Scott was on his back but I could see him moving," he recollected. Despite the dark blue shade of the Corpus Christi uniform, Gonzalez could tell Goodman’s pant leg was drenched in blood.
"I’m coming, Brother," Gonzalez assured Goodman as he grabbed his ‘go bag’ and headed for his partner.
"I cinched my tourniquet up his leg, nice and high, nice and tight." As he did so, he could feel the blood streaming from his own leg.
He had another tourniquet, he remembered, in his trunk with his SWAT gear.
"I cinched mine up, nice and high, nice and tight. As high as it can go."
Back-up and EMTs arrived to find Gonzalez and Goodman both in the front yard. Goodman was treated first and loaded into the ambulance. Medics found that his leg wound had already stopped bleeding by the time they had arrived, thanks to the tourniquet, to Gonzalez, and to the training that made applying it second nature.
A second medic arrived to treat Gonzalez.
The suspect, later identified as 22-year-old Travis Cody Magill, only got about a quarter of a mile before crashing the Tahoe into a utility pole. He was arrested without further incident and treated for gunshot wounds to the leg and chest. He faces two counts of attempted capital murder and one count of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
Gonzalez was treated and released just four hours later. His partner was released later the same week.
A Lesson to All Officers
Goodman, 55, was already nearing retirement before the March 20th incident, which left him deaf in one ear and with fragments of a bullet too close to his spine to be extracted. He remains out of work and awaits his retirement this summer as well as a final surgery on his ear.
|Senior Officer Gonzalez received the above trophy from the Corpus Christi SWAT team when he returned to full duty. (Photo courtesy Amador Gonzalez)|
Gonzalez has been recognized by his department and the Corpus Christi Police Association, as well as the Texas Tactical Officers Association for his incredible efforts, which he credits, rather modestly, to his SWAT training.
"Every officer should carry a tourniquet holster on their duty belt and in their ‘go bags,’" said Gonzalez.
"I can’t [express] how important that training is. Knowing where your med kit is and knowing you can reach it with one hand — being able to apply a tourniquet with either your strong hand or your support hand — is so important."
Gonzalez saved the lives of his partner, himself, and potentially those in his community when he took a dangerous threat off the streets. He then continued to protect his fellow officers by advocating the use and training of tourniquets for all officers.
We are honored to recognize Corpus Christi Senior Officer Amador Gonzalez as a ‘RISE: Protect Life’ Award nominee.